Mitt Romney’s Constantly Evolving Stance On Abortion Rights

This week, presidential candidate Mitt Romney further complicated his ever-evolving stance on women’s issues when he said he wasn’t aware of any abortion-related legislation that would be part of his agenda as president — despite the fact that he is on the record as supporting at least three anti-abortion pieces of legislation.

But Romney has never been easy to pin down on abortion-related issues. When it comes to women’s health, and particularly the issue of safe and legal access to abortion services, the presidential candidate has had a long and convoluted evolution throughout his political career — shifting from pro-choice to pro-life, amending his stated intentions for the future of Roe v. Wade, and waffling over whether the power to regulate abortion legislation should rest with the states or the courts. ThinkProgress has compiled a timeline of Romney’s constantly changing stance on abortion:

5/27/1994: Romney supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.

During a 1994 Massachusetts Senate debate, Romney emphasized his commitment to supporting a women’s right to safe and legal abortions. “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country,” he said. “I have since the time my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it. And I sustain and support that law, and the right of a woman to make that choice.”


9/8/1994: A Romney spokesperson says Mitt has been consistently pro-choice.

After Sen. Edward Kennedy’s campaign criticized Romney for not being a true supporter of abortion rights, a Romney spokesperson told reporters, “Mitt has always been consistent in his pro-choice position.”

9/21/2002: Romney is “unequivocally” pro-choice.

In a 2002 interview with WBZ-TV, Ann and Mitt sought to clarify that Mitt Romney will not limit women’s reproductive freedom. “When asked whether I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose, I make an unequivocal answer — yes,” Romney said.

5/27/2005: Romney is pro-life, but says he will maintain the pro-choice status quo.

Romney committed to keeping the current pro-choice laws in Massachusetts in place, deferring on his own beliefs on the subject of abortion because he says they are a distraction. “I’m absolutely committed to my promise to maintain the status quo with regards to laws relating to abortion and choice, and so far I’ve been able to successfully do that,” Romney said at a news conference.

07/26/2005: Romney vetoes pro-choice legislation.

Romney vetoed a bill that would have allowed women in Massachusetts access to emergency contraception in pharmacies and hospitals. In an op-ed explaining his decision, he wrote, “I am pro-life. I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother. I wish the people of America agreed, and that the laws of our nation could reflect that view.”

8/12/2007: Romney says he has never been pro-choice.

Romney told Fox News that he never called himself pro-choice. “I never allowed myself to use the word pro-choice because I didn’t feel I was pro-choice,” Romney said. “I would protect the law, I said, as it was, but I wasn’t pro-choice.”

10/28/2007: Romney supports a federal bill to ban abortion across the country.

In a Republican primary debate in 2007, Romney said he would be “delighted” to sign a bill banning abortion across the country. “I would welcome a circumstance where there was such a consensus in this country that we said we don’t want to have abortion in this country at all, period,” he said. “That would be wonderful…but that’s not where America is today. Where America is, is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade and return to the states that authority.”

11/30/2007: Romney supports overturning Roe v. Wade and returning control over abortion laws to the states.

At a town hall meeting, Romney said that abortion laws should be determined by the states. “I would like, for instance, to see Roe v. Wade overturned — and by overturning Roe v. Wade, you would effectively be returning to the people and the states the ability to create their own legislation as it relates to abortion and life,” he said.

8/7/2007: Romney supports expanding the definition of the 14th Amendment to include unborn children, which would outlaw all abortions under any circumstances.

During an appearance on Good Morning America, Romney confirmed that he supported the so-called “human life amendment” in the 2004 GOP platform that would extend the 14th Amendment’s protections to fetuses and outlaw abortions without any exceptions. “I do support the Republican Platform and I support that being part of the Republican Platform,” he said.

8/16/2007: Romney qualifies his stance on the Human Life Amendment to say he might not actually support it.

After his Good Morning America appearance, Romney walked back his stance on the 14th Amendment after discussing it with one of his advisers. When reporters asked him to clarify whether or not he actually supported a constitutional amendment banning all abortions, Romney said, “I’m pro-life; it would be great if we could just leave it at that.”

1/23/2012: Romney calls Roe v. Wade “one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history.”

On the 39th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, Romney said that it marked “one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history” and recommitted himself to “reversing that decision, for in the quiet of conscience, people of both political parties know that more than a million abortions a year cannot be squared with the good heart of America.”

6/18/2012: Romney lays out a “pro-life pledge” that outlines the anti-abortion legislation he would support as president.

Romney reiterates his support for anti-choice policies in an op-ed in the National Review Online, including banning federal funding for abortion under the Hyde Amendment, denying funds for voluntary family planning services in foreign countries under the “global gag rule,” overturning Roe v. Wade, and appointing anti-choice judges to the Supreme Court.

8/27/2012: Romney broadens his support for rape exceptions to include exceptions in the case of the “health of the mother.”

Until this point, Romney had typically argued that abortion should only be limited to rape, incest, or life of the mother. But in an interview with CBS, Romney broadened his rhetoric to say that he is in “favor of abortion being legal in the case of rape and incest, and the health and life of the mother.”

8/27/2012: A Romney adviser says that Mitt’s stance on abortion has remained unchanged.

Romney spokesperson Andrea Saul clarified that, even though Romney appeared to have shifted to favor a health exception in his abortion stance, his position on abortion did not change. “Gov. Romney’s position is clear: he opposes abortion except for cases of rape, incest and where the life of the mother is threatened,” she said in a statement.

8/27/2012: Romney believes abortion is not a political issue because it should be settled by the courts.

In the same CBS interview, Romney said that abortion “is a decision that will be made by the Supreme Court.”

8/28/2012: Romney’s sister says that Mitt won’t be touching abortion because it’s not his focus.

In an interview with the National Journal, Jane Romney said that her brother would never make abortions illegal as president. “He’s not going to be touching any of that. It’s not his focus,” she said. Calling Democratic concerns about restricted access to reproductive rights unfounded scare tactics, Jane said she believes “Mitt’s much more in the middle” when it comes to abortion.

10/9/2012: Rommey says he does not plan to enact anti-abortion legislation as president.

In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Romney suggested that he would not focus on abortion issues as president. “There’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda,” he said.

10/10/2012: Romney will be a pro-life president, but still will not name specific abortion-related legislation that he will enact in office.

Romney reiterated his support for anti-choice policies, such as regulating abortion at the state level and cutting off federal funding for Planned Parenthood, in an interview with the Columbus Dispatch. “I am pro-life, I’ll be a pro-life president,” he said. “I will take pro-life measures, but those happen to be executive-order and budget measures, as opposed to legislation, at least so far as I’m aware.” When he was asked about the possibility of a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade, Romney said, “That’s not where America is now.”

In the 1994 debate during the Massachusetts Senate race, Kennedy derided Romney as having a “multiple choice” stance on abortion. Mitt Romney’s constantly shifting positions — which his surrogates admit are a strategy to help him win votes — seem to have lived up to that label.